Teens round the world have listened to the radio for decades. And despite all those fancy new entertainment options, they’re still doing it. To hear that latest song, to request an old favourite or send a shoutout to a friend.
But for teens growing up in Australia in the late 1980s and early 90s, their choices were limited. The government youth radio network only played alternative music. Commercial FM stations were programmed for adults over 25 – lots of classic rock or soft ballads. If you wanted the latest pop, dance or hiphop – you had to wait till after 7pm. And hope your song was in the top 40.
In 1992 I was part of a group of Melbourne youngsters with another plan. What about a radio station just for youth? All you’d need is an expensive transmitter, high-altitude antenna space, a studio, tonnes of equipment and cabling, hundreds of CDs, announcers, newsreaders, admin staff…
Somehow, with a tonne of borrowed gear 89.9 Hitz FM Melbourne coughed into life in December 1992. We broadcasted from a school because the building was free and you could get there by public transport. I got the coveted breakfast host role because… I had access to mum’s car. We brought CDs from home, and yep, we brought the family CD player in too. For 9 days and nights, the requests and shoutouts rolled in.
Seven months later, Hitz FM returned – broadcasting for a fortnight. We were a little more organised – just a little – and everything about the station was bigger and better. The announcers and news team sounded great. We even heard that one of the Black Thunders from the bigger stations had been playing our station. (But made sure they put it on ‘the proper one’ when they returned to headquarters.)
When Hitz FM came back in December 1993, things seemed to progress as before. But over the next six weeks, Melbourne went nuts for ‘the little station at the other end of the dial’. Our planned two month broadcast had to be extended by a month; everything was going crazy. Four phone lines constantly ringing. Staff mobbed at public events. Massive media coverage. And then ratings day – we’d stolen so many youngsters from the leading FM station – it crashed from 1st to 4th place.
My (yet to be titled) Hitz FM memoir will take you behind the scenes of this truly one-in-a-million story. You’ll read about the struggles, the practical jokes, the triumphs and the crushing disappointments. You’ll go back to the early 90s when we had CDs instead of streaming. Stickers on traffic poles instead of Facebook promotions. Megamixes instead of mashups. Stonewash jeans instead of… whatever kids are into now.
The book will be out.. when it’s done.
I hope you’ll enjoy the ride.